2024 George Watkins Citizen of the Year

George Watkins Citizen of the Year Award for 2024 - Cindy Bennett

Cindy Bennett named 2024 George Watkins Citizen of the Year

They’re trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful… and a whole bunch of other adjectives.

That’s what Scouts say about Scouts, anyway — it’s the law.

By all accounts, Vance County Schools Superintendent Dr. Cindy Bennett has those same traits. Indeed, the Occoneechee Council chose her as the George Watkins Citizen of the Year Thursday night.

Several dozen folks came out for the occasion, and not a single one had unkind words for her.

Especially Dr. Ralphel Holloman, VCS Behavioral Health Team. During his upbringing in Wayne County some 60 years ago, he watched a Boy Scout troop as they prepared to go camping every now and again. He wanted to join but didn’t have a uniform, until his mom brought home a scarf. That was the only sort of uniform he had.

Some students at VCS go to school each day with their own metaphorical scarf. Bennett knows that and is willing to find the other parts of that uniform — more literally, become complete and achieve their dreams.

“If you know her, you know she loves to fight for kids,” said Bennett. She’s a champion for them.

Sort of like a Biblical guy named David, Holloman said. He thanked her for the privilege of working together.

Pastor Johnny Yount said there’s no one more fitting for the honor than Bennett, who has the “heart of a servant.”

Yount had a list of compliments and testimonials about her upstanding character as the day is long. He’d had words with anyone who disagreed, he said.

“The smile on her face is genuine,” he said, “and it is infectious.”

As mentioned, no one had any unkind words. Yount had a couple points of criticism, however — she has trouble giving any less than her best, and she has trouble putting herself before others.

Henderson and Vance County are better off with having Bennett as one of its great leaders.

“The Great” Michele Burgess, as Col. Archie Taylor calls her, presented the award to Bennett and offered a few words. Taylor called her a lot of other things and gave her a lot more credit — maybe a little too much, she joked.

With her resume and credentials, Bennett could own a Fortune 500 company, or be a university president — she chose Vance County, Burgess said.

Bennett is living the dream, she said, a complete life, thanks in no small part to her family. The whole thing was in attendance that night — her husband Ron, their four kids and five, almost six grandchildren.

She got a little choked up talking about that.

The thousand-plus books at her home help a bit too — and passing her passion for reading on to the students she serves is icing on the cake. Acting as a guiding light for the kids in that way and more is what’s important, at the end of the day.


(Courtesy of the Henderson Daily Dispatch)